By Josiah Blake Tidwell
The Divided Kingdom.
1 King, 12-2 K. 17. 2 Chron. 10-38.
The Division of the Kingdom. Several things must be set down as contributory causes of the division of the nation. (1) There was an old jealousy between the tribes of the north and south reaching as far back as the time of the Judges. The very difference in the northern and southern territories and their products tended to keep alive a rivalry between the tribes occupying them. (2) During the time of Solomon the people had turned away from Jehovah and engaged in the idolatrous worship of other gods, especially those of the Zidonians, Moabites and Ahijah, the prophet, had foretold the division (1 K. 11:29-39). This weakening of the people's faithfulness to God gave place for the manifestations of their former jealousy. (3) Solomon had put upon the people heavy burdens of taxation and of forced labor, which were fast taking away the people's liberties and reducing them to serfdom. This policy inflamed the jealousy of the northern tribes into a bitter discontent. They would rebel rather than submit to the loss of their liberty which to them meant also disloyalty to God. (4) The ambition of Jeroboam, of the tribe of Ephraim, a valiant officer of Solomon, no doubt led him to stir up the ten tribes to revolt. Ahijah, the prophet, had made known to him that, upon the death of Solomon, he should become the head of these tribes. (5) The final and immediate cause was the foolish course of Rehoboam. He went to Shechem to be accepted as king by the northern tribes. They demanded that he should relieve them of the heavy burdens laid on them by Solomon. The older and more experienced men counseled him to grant their request, but he heeded the advice of the young men, who were ignorant of conditions, and answered them with a threat of even severer burdens. Incensed by this foolish threat, the ten tribes revolted and enthroned Jeroboam as their king and the division of the empire was accomplished. This was the turning point of the nation. It was the undoing of all that had been accomplished by the three kings that had proceeded.
Comparison of the Two Kingdoms. Each kingdom had its advantages and its disadvantages. (1) The northern kingdom, from the material point of view, was far superior to the southern. It had a larger and more fertile country. It had three times as many people and a much better military equipment. Ramah, Bether and Gilgal with their sites of their schools of the prophets were all in their borders. Their country was also the scene of greatest prophetic activity and their cause was just. But the kings were inferior and wicked. Not a single one of the nineteen kings were godly. They established idolatrous and abominable worship as a religion of the king. This idolatry counterbalanced all the material advantages. (2) The Southern Kingdom was far superior from a spiritual point of view. It possessed the religious capital of the nation with the temple as a center of Jehovah worship. True it had only one third as many people, one half as much territory and that less fertile, and an inferior military equipment, but its superior spiritual power and its superior line of kings made it last 135 years longer than the northern kingdom.
The Kings of the Northern Kingdom.
The Kings of Judah.
Important Events in the History of Israel. The following are perhaps the most important events in the history of tie northern kingdom during this period. (1) The establishment of idol worship at Dan and Bethel. (2) The removal of the Capital, by Omri, from Tirzah to the hill site of Samaria. (3) The wicked reign of Ahab, who introduced Baal worship into Israel. (4) The reformations of Jehu, who swept Baal worship from the land and overthrew the hated dynasty of Omri. (5) The successful reign of Jeroboam II, who brought the nation back to a state of prosperity that resembled the time of David and Solomon. (6) The activity of the prophets during the entire period. This activity is seen in the important place given (1 K. 17-2 K. 13) to the work of Elijah and Elisha; in the prophecy of Jonah, Amos and Hosea, who prophesied in the time of the reign of Jereboam II, and in part in the reign of Micah who preached during the reign of Hoshea. (7) The conquest of Israel by the Assyrians which came as the result of forty years of constant decline following the death of Jeroboam II. After this Israel disappears from history. She had sinned away her opportunity.
Principal Events In the History of Judah. The following are the principal events of the history of Judah from the division of the kingdom until the captivity of Israel. (1) The foolish answer of Rehoboam to the ten tribes which led to their revolt and the continual enmity of the northern and southern kingdoms that followed. (2) The invasion of Judah by Shishak of Egypt, who greatly weakened the nation. (3) The reign of Jehoshaphat whose judicial, military and educational or religious reforms introduce a new and good day in Judah and whose unhappy alliance with Ahab, led his son, who followed him as king to introduce idolatry into Judah, with all the evil of the reign of Jehoram, Ahaziah and Athaliah. (4) The prosperous reign of Uzziah, who was contemporary with Jeroboam II of Israel. (5) The Apostasy under Ahaz, who encouraged Baal worship and practiced great cruelty even on the members of his own family. The prophet Isaiah (chs. 7-9) appeals to Ahaz and to the people to return to Jehovah.
The Relation between the Two Kingdoms. The bearing of the two kingdoms toward each other during this period was constantly changing. (1) There was almost constant war for about sixty years. During this time the kings of Judah cherished the hope that they would regain their control over the ten tribes. (2) There was a period of close alliance. This alliance was sealed by an intermarriage between the families of Ahab, king of Israel and Jehoshaphat, king of Judah. The purpose seems to have been that they might better resist the encroaching power of Assyria. (3) There was a fresh manifestation of hatred. Jehu is enthroned in Israel and destroys the house of Ahab. This shatters the alliance between the two nations and causes a breach that is never healed. The northern kingdom becomes more and more idolatrous, suffers at the hands of the Syrians and is finally carried captive by the Assyrians in 722 B. C.
The Messages of the Prophets of this Period. It is not within the purpose of this study to raise any of the questions of criticism concerning these books. Nor is there time to summarize the contents or teachings of nay or all of them. The prophets of this period are Jonah, Amos and Hosea, and the prophecy of each should be read following the outline given in the author's "The Bible Book by Book."
Lessons of the Period. (1) Jehovah rules not only in Israel but over all peoples. (2) Each nation is responsible to God according to its opportunity and enlightenment. (3) God judges people according to their acts, not according to religious creeds or ceremonies. (4) Though a merciful God, Jehovah will and must finally punish willful and continuous evil doers. (5) Sin is infidelity to God and brings pain to his heart. (6) All punishment is administered to the end that the sinful may repent and be forgiven. (7) Jehovah loves men and demands that they love him in return. (8) Repentance is the only way of escape from doom. (9) God seeks to save men and nations from the sins that are to destroy them.
For Study and Discussion. (1) The events leading to the division of the kingdom. (2) The story of each king in each nation, (a) How he came to the throne, (b) The chief acts of his reign, (c) The character of the king himself, (d) The length of his reign, (e) His enemies and his friends, (f) How his reign ended. (3) The story of Ahab. (4) The story of Elijah. (5) The story of Elisha. (6) The miracles of the period. (7) The different enemies with which the tribes were surrounded and the trouble they had with each. (8) Jonah and his service. (9) The evidence of wealth and luxury of the time. (10) The sins of cruelty and injustice in society and government.